Satalyst Brilliance on 25 Jan 2016

Satalyst tests Tracker at Tour Down Under

Satalyst and its Satalyst Tracker had an amazing opportunity to perform and grow at 2016 Santos Tour Down Under.

What is the Satalyst Tracker?

The Satalyst Tracker is an IoT solution used for tracking and enriching live data produced during a cycling race.  Enabled by a mobile phone app, the solution uses Microsoft Azure IoT Event Hubs which ingests data from devices on a bike and rider, such as a power meter and heart rate monitor, during a bike race.  The solution also uses Apache Storm which runs on HDInsight and provides real time data analytics and processing power; Redis cache in Azure for short term storage / efficiency; and Azure SQL databases for long term data storage.  The Satalyst Tracker was first used with great success at the Tour of Margaret River Pro/Am cycling event in Western Australia in November 2015.

The Satalyst Tracker debuts at Australia’s most prestigious stage race

On the back of the Tracker’s technical success and keen interest from racing officials and spectators at the Tour of Margaret River, Satalyst was invited to partner with Microsoft to bring the Tracker to the 2016 Santos Tour Down Under – the inaugural event of the UCI World Ranking calendar.

With the help of Tourism South Australia, Satalyst was able to have the mobile phone enabled Tracker carried by the Drapac Professional Cycling – an Australian UCI Professional Continental cycling team.  Riders of the Drapac team carried the Tracker for six stages of the week-long event, whilst it collected data on riders’ torque, cadence, heart rate and calories burnt.

National broadcast coverage

Channel 9 has the national broadcasting rights to this major international cycling event held in South Australia each January.  This year, the Tracker data was used to generate live information that was shared by race commentators and broadcast on television and web streaming of the race.

A few changes were required to augment the technology behind the Tracker so Satalyst could provide the live data feed for the Channel 9 national broadcast of the race.  These changes included:

  • Adding a new API that could be called to retrieve the data we had collected from the riders.
  • Adding more data enrichment features, including the number of calories a rider has burnt from the start of the race.
  • Improving the phone app so it could be used more easily by team mechanics to set up the team riders before a race.

The broadcasting requirements did not maximize all the features of the Tracker.  The features excluded during the Tour Down Under were mostly around the SignalR Event Hub updates.  These update maps to show where a tracked rider is on the road as well as draw real time plots of the rider’s data.

Features of the Satalyst Tracker

The table below compares and contrasts which features of the Tracker where used by the Tour Down Under broadcaster with that used at the Tour of Margaret River.

Features of Satalyst Tracker

The Drapac experience

Having the Tracker carried by riders of a professional racing team competing in a world-class event presented a few challenges and it was always going to be a huge risk to the solution if the devices where not set up correctly and ‘paired’ with the correct power meters and heart rate monitors before each stage of the race.  Fortunately, we had the Drapac team mechanics Jeff Crombie and Jarryd Jones whose professionalism and cooperation made the whole thing possible.  From the start it was clear they ‘got it’ and quickly became proficient in setting up the devices.  Jeff and Jarryd also provided valuable feedback on how to improve the setup process and make it a lot more intuitive for users in the future.

Android mobile phones loaded with Satalyst Tracker

Android mobile phones loaded with Satalyst Tracker

Tracker data to Channel 9 national broadcast

For the Tour Down Under, we added new APIs to the Satalyst Tracker to enable retrieval of the data collected from the riders.   Firdaus Zein from Namagi was the main consumer of our newly built APIs.  Firdaus was responsible for working out when and what to consume from the data we were producing from the riders.  This would then be presented as a graphic in the Channel 9 broadcast.  Firdaus also helped us discover the benefit of a diagnostic page to tell us how good the data was and how often data packets where reaching Azure. This enabled him to make informed decisions about when and who to put on the broadcast screen.

Tracker data for broadcast


Screenshot of TV broadcast

Screenshot of TV broadcast

Other lessons learned

The Tracker solution and the Microsoft technology behind the Tracker performed extremely well at the Tour Down Under.  Already there is talk about securing its place in next year’s tour.

Considering the abundance of data processed, the stability of the technology was very reassuring.  Over the course of the event, the Tracker received and processed 0.5 million data updates which is equivalent to one update every 2 seconds of the race.  Each of these messages took less than 0.1 seconds to process in Azure HDInsight that was running 8 nodes in its cluster.  The biggest stages for amount of data processed were Stage 4 to Victor Harbour and not surprisingly the longest stage – Stage 5 up Willunga Hill.

However, there were a few key takeaways from this experience:

  • If you put a phone in the hands of a professional cyclists, they WILL try and take a selfie and send it to themselves during a race!!
  • Power meters and heart rate meters are all different even within teams – they behave differently and some work better than others, so expect problems pairing.
  • Monitoring the data feed in an IoT solution is paramount.

It’s a wrap

Not bad for an idea that was conceived and executed by a bunch of Satalyst engineers, some of whom have an interest in cycling and some of which are slowly gaining a new appreciation of cycling.  The most substantial takeaway from our experience with the Tracker is that it wouldn’t have been possible without the flexibility and stability of the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

The next round of the UCI World Tour is Paris to Nice in early March.  Perhaps the Tracker may get an opportunity at this event in 2017?

Drapac bikes with Satalyst Tracker

More Information on the Satalyst tracker can be found

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